Thursday, November 13, 2008

Errors Down on the Farm

Quick! How many major league players were charged with thirty or more errors in 2008? Give up? The answer is only one. Last year's error king was none other than Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds. He is the first player to reach 30 errors since Edgar Renteria struggled at short for the Red Sox in 2005. I wonder if the stress of his major league record 204 strikeouts followed him into the field? Second place in 2008 went to Edwin Encarnacion of the Reds with 23 errors. Four other players committed twenty or more errors: Hanley Ramirez (22), Yuniesky Betancourt (21), Jorge Cantu (20), and Joe Crede (20). You can see the full list at mlb.com here.

Errors aren't a very good way to measure a player's defense. What is scored as an error by one official scorer may very well be ruled a hit by another. The ability of a first baseman to scoop balls out of the dirt or catch other wild throws can have a big impact on the error totals of his teammates. Errors alone don't tell you about a player's range. The list goes on. Of course, if you manage to make a high number of errors, chances are you're not the best on defense.

With all that said, when it comes to defense in the minor leagues, errors are what you hear about most. A minor league notes column might say something like this, "Player So-and-So committed his 27th error of the season last night," and go on to briefly talk about the player's struggles. Sometimes you'll hear about how high error totals in the minors don't mean a player will be terrible in the majors: Jimmy Rollins committed 29 errors in the Florida State League, Derek Jeter had 56 errors in 1993, Omar Vizquel reached 25 errors for the Salinas Spurs before So-and-So was born, those guys turned out pretty well, etc. Other times the player's error total will be used to suggest he'd be better off in the outfield or as a designated hitter.

What you don't often see is where Player So-and-So ranks in the league by total errors. Maybe if So-and-So is leading the league, that will be noted, but it's not usually mentioned if he's third or fourth or fifth, and so on. It's hard to look up minor league rankings for errors, too, so it's hard to get a feel for where guys fit in.

As part of my looking at minor league fielding stats from Baseball-Reference.com I've put together a list of players who committed the most total errors in the minors, regardless of level, league, or position. For example, Gustavo Nunez in the Tigers organization committed 7 errors as a shortstop in the Gulf Coast League, seven as a shortstop in the Florida State League, and four as a second baseman in the FSL. In my list he shows up as having committed 18 errors. Simple as pie.

It turns out that while Mark Reynolds was the only major leaguer to top thirty errors, thirty-four minor league players got there. I've listed them below. Positions are shown the way Baseball-Reference.com does it.

Most Total Errors Committed in the Minor Leagues in 2008

RankNamePosTeamLevelMLB
Team
InnTotal ChancesErrors
1Ryan Adams*4/65Delmarva
ABAL876.252152
2Marcus Lemon*6BakersfieldA+TEX1023.253243
3Carmen Angelini*6Charleston
ANYY1127.256442
4Audy Ciriaco*6West Michigan
ADET936.151041
5Daniel Mayora*64ModestoA+COL1071.058840
6Ronald Ramirez*64Tri-City
Lexington
A-
A
HOU895.250339
7P.J. Phillips*6/7Rancho CucamongaA+LAA1064.062938

Reynaldo Navarro*6MissoulaRARI613.040638
9Domnit Bolivar*56/4Batavia
Quad Cities
A-
A
STL970.039137

Carlos George*64AZL BrewersRMIL373.021737
11Helder Velazquez*64/5AshevilleACOL947.050236

Matthew Cline*654West Virginia
Brevard County
A
A+
MIL946.248436

Steven Souza*5/6Vermont
Hagerstown
A-
A
WSN578.220236
14Brent Brewer*6/5West Virginia
Brevard County
A
A+
MIL999.154535

Charlie Culberson*6Augusta
ASFG695.135435
16Derrick Mitchell*4Lakewood
APHI919.052733

Lance Zawadzki*64/5Fort Wayne
San Antonio
A
AA
SDP961.248233

Craig Corrado*4/5LexingtonAHOU933.039233

Burt Reynolds*5Princeton
RTBR431.216133
20Elvis Andrus*6Frisco
AATEX960.157432

Mat Gamel*5Huntsville
Nashville
AA
AAA
MIL1142.237732

Tony Blanco*57/3Modesto
Tulsa
A+
AA
OAK
COL
711.123232
23Jonathan Greene*5/3Clinton
ATEX1062.138831

Jim Negrych*54Lynchburg
Altoona
A+
AA
PIT944.238631
25Jose Coronado*6/4BinghamtonAANYM1199.064330

Nathan Samson*64Peoria
Iowa
A
AAA
CHC1121.062730

Angel Gonzalez*46/5Lynchburg
Altoona
A+
AA
PIT1000.062430

Renny Osuna*46/5Clinton
Bakersfield
A
A+
TEX1066.261930

Greg Paiml*6/4Kannapolis
Winston-Salem
A
A+
CHW1060.258030

Ruben Tejada*6St. LucieA+NYM1099.158030

Fidel Hernandez*6Clearwater
A+PHI1029.155430

Frank Martinez456Stockton
Midland
A+
AA
OAK1078.148930

Pedro Baez*5/6Ogden
Great Lakes
R
A
LAD1015.233730

Justin Baum*5/4Fort Wayne
ASDP966.228730

It's hard to be a low-minors infielder, I guess. The two guys on the list who reached AAA were only there briefly, so I guess AA is the highest level for elevated error totals. I don't know if that's because bad defense holds players back or if players really improve their defense by the time they reach the top level of the minors. I suppose it could also be that error-prone players who reach AAA probably have a bat that begs for a mid-season call-up, limiting their opportunity to make errors in the minors.

Whatever the reason, you must have noticed everyone on the above list is an infielder. Obviously, they have more opportunities to commit errors. But what about their brethren in the outfield? Twenty minor leaguers reached double digits in errors while lumbering around out on the grass.

Most Total Errors Committed in the Minor Leagues in 2008
(outfield only)

RankNameTeamLevelMLB TeamInningsTotal ChancesErrors
1Luis TerreroNorfolkAAABAL833.020713
2Ambiorix ConcepcionBinghamtonAANYM1011.225812

D'Marcus IngramQuad CitiesASTL633.017812

Carlos PegueroHigh DesertA+SEA479.112512
5Gerardo ParraVisalia
Mobile
A+
AA
ARI1037.129011

Maiko LoyolaColumbusATBR1004.127211

Michael McBrydeSan JoseA+SFG1045.126911

Mark DolencBeloitAMIN965.122111

Maximo MendezWisconsinASEA948.021311

Michael MooneySan Jose
Connecticut
Fresno
A+
AA
AAA
SFG678.016511

Shane KeoughKane CountyAOAK640.013111
12Jason PlaceLancasterA+BOS977.225010

Austin KrumCharlestonANYY1124.123810

Dominic BrownLakewoodAPHI994.123010

Moises SierraLansingATOR1112.222310

Maurice GartrellBirminghamAACHW821.118710

Ben RevereBeloitAMIN660.217510

Javis DiazLake Elsinore
Portland
A+
AAA
SDP678.115310

Brendan KatinNashvilleAAAMIL645.113610

Tony BrownBillingsRCIN475.28510

Unlike the infielders, error-prone outfielders show up at all levels. Tony Brown's sub-.900 fielding percentage is kind of sad. I assume he must have a pretty wild arm behind all those errors. I believe Luis Terrero is the only one on this list to have played in the majors.

Here's some useless trivia: catcher Gabriel Gutierrez, a Dodgers farmhand, handled the most chances (365) in the minors last year without committing an error. The non-catcher with the most errorless chances was Jonathan Van Every of the Red Sox with 306. Blakeney Billings, the 2008 16th round pick of the Brewers, committed two errors in his only two fielding chances of 2008. It's good to see he picked up the Brewers' defensive philosophy so quickly. Ten other minor league pitchers committed an error in their only fielding chance. Finally, who says a pitcher is a fifth infielder? Scott Mueller in the Baltimore system managed to record 110 outs on mound without a single fielding chance.

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